What’s Your Strategy at Business Networking Evenings?

Kids shouting to each otherI do not like business networking evenings!

It’s not in my nature to go up to completely strange people and engage them in conversation when I know that I have the ulterior motive of getting something from them (a contact or a follow-up meeting).

That’s just me.

But, because it’s an essential part of building a business, I grit my teeth and get on with it as, I’m sure, do most people. (There are, of course, people who love networking evenings but my guess is that they’re fewer than those of us who don’t!).

I recently changed the approach I use, though, and I’ve found it makes those evenings less intimidating.

Think about the design of your business card

As I mentioned in this article, I choose to lead the development of my business by promoting the product, not the business opportunity.

And one of the off-line tools I use is, of course, my business card.

I’ve kept my business card design really simple – you would struggle to call it a design, really! I’ve made the font large and easy to read because many of the networking events I attend are held in subdued lighting. Having large, easy to read font makes it easier for people to quickly see what it is that I do.

I also make no mention at all of the business opportunity.

Here’s what it looks like:

Martin Malden business card

There are two things that I’ve noticed since I started using this card (which I only recently developed):

  1. People are immediately interested, particularly by the reference to stress-relief
  2. People often ask what I mean by anti-inflammatory

In other words, my business card has proved to be a great way to start conversations.

But here’s something else that has worked for me: I cut short the discussion on my business as soon as I can and ask them about themselves. And I try to keep the conversation focused on them and their lives, rather than on me and my business.

Then, the next day, I follow up with everyone whose card I collected. I simply offer to let them know more about the anti-stress solution (or anti-inflammatory, depending on their interest) over a coffee.

Since I’ve been using this approach I’ve managed to get follow-up meetings with around 50% of the people I met the previous evening – a huge improvement over what I was getting before.

At the follow-up meetings my strategy is still not to talk about the business opportunity.

My aim is to get them to become a customer of one of the products and then, if they like it, to mention the business opportunity.

Of course, in some cases, it may be better to mention the business opportunity earlier – if, for example, the person I’m meeting openly tells me they’re looking for something new or extra to do.

But, in most cases, I just stick with the products until they’ve used one and like it.

So this approach has done two things for me:

  1. Networking evenings are no longer as intimidating as they once were
  2. I’m getting a much higher follow-up meeting rate

And my message?

Think about the design of your business card.

There are many creative and beautifully designed cards out there but, if they don’t start a conversation for you, you’re going to have to do the heavy lifting yourself.

If you enjoy doing that, then fantastic – but if you find that difficult, think about how you could create a card that would help you.

What’s your strategy for business networking evenings? Leave a comment and please share this on one (or all!) of the networks below.


Martin Malden